Jazz musician Milton “Milt” Jackson was a renowned entertainer and the first and most influential vibes player of the modern jazz era. Jackson was born in Detroit on January 1, 1923. At age 16, Jackson began playing vibes or vibraphone professionally. He attended Michigan State University and joined Dizzy Gillespie’s sextet in 1945; he then worked with Gillespie’s big band and later returned to play vibes and piano in Gillespie’s sextet from 1950 to 1952.
Also known as “Bags,” Jackson was a cofounder of the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ), which was his principal performance group from 1952 to 1974. The MJQ had a long independent career of some twenty years until disbanding in 1974, when Jackson split with Lewis, partly in an attempt to make more money on his own and, more likely because he sought the improvisational freedom he once enjoyed.
From the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, Jackson recorded for Norman Granz’s Pablo Records, including Jackson, Johnson, Brown & Company(1983), featuring Jackson with J. J. Johnson on trombone, Ray Brown on bass, backed by Tom Ranier on piano, guitarist John Collins, and drummer Roy McCurdy.
Jackson’s musical prowess had an undeniable swing that is heard in long lines of eighth and sixteenth notes. He created an original style out of bebop’s advanced harmonies and irregular beats. Jackson died in 1999.